“I can see clearly now…”
by Anne Hedin, April 2020
Thanks to Covid-19 shutdowns, global air pollution levels have dropped by as much as 40% in some areas (Indianapolis included) during the first 100 days of the crisis. This provides dramatic evidence of how quickly we could clean up our air by moving to renewables. Talking about how the skies over Los Angeles cleared when the traffic stopped, a friend told me, “It’s as though the virus has broken a trance we’ve been in for decades.“ May it be so.
An energy analyst estimated that China’s carbon emissions fell by about 25% in just four weeks at the height of the pandemic there. It would obviously be better to make this change voluntarily rather than have it forced upon us with attendant mass suffering, but again, the speedy reduction tells us something we need to hear and believe.
A view of what’s possible is not enough; it will take sustained political will to permanently reduce carbon emissions and reclaim clean air as a birthright for all. The crisis has also clearly demonstrated that areas with higher concentrations of particulate matter from burning fossil fuels have higher death rates from Covid-19.
Change will not be easy, we know that. Yet gaining widespread support to make the changes needed should be easier now that everyone has seen what’s possible in a short time. This piece has been missing to date. As the Bible says, “Without vision, the people perish.”
Birthing a Movement
by Extinction Rebellion Bloomington, February 2020
Over 60 activists, ranging in age from 10 to over 70 years old and coming from around Indiana, participated in a 2020 Strategy Retreat. On February 8, at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bloomington, XR–Bloomington hosted a retreat called Birthing a Movement which took Extinction Rebellion-Indiana to a whole new level.
The morning program featured brainstorming and forming affinity groups for upcoming actions. From PopUp gardens, to Food Fairs, to pressuring IU and the City to abandon fossil fuels, the ideas were many and varied. Following a (delicious!) vegan lunch, the program introduced regenerative culture – a radical and transformative vision for living the world we want to see. A visioning session allowed people to imagine the post-crisis world beyond our modern industrial and toxic form of civilization. Breakout sessions covered topics from strategy to climate grief to a “civil disco-bediance” dance-along. The event also brought together activists who plan to start an XR chapter in Indianapolis.
Participants left with plans for actions, and during the coming months, they will begin to call upon their fellow citizens to join them as they demand the urgent and necessary efforts to fight the Climate Emergency.
A minister’s letter to her senator
by Jennifer Schrock, M.Div., January 2020
This letter was given as a speech at the Renewable Energy Day at the Statehouse, and delivered to Sen. Blake Doriot (R – District 12). It is reprinted with permission of the author as a guest editorial.
My name is Jennifer Schrock and I represent two organizations: Mennonite Creation Care Network and Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College. Both of them are affiliated with the Mennonite Church USA. We Mennonites endeavor to root ourselves in the way of Jesus Christ, and we understand nonviolence and peacemaking as central to that journey.
We Mennonites endeavor to root ourselves in the way of Jesus Christ, and we understand nonviolence and peacemaking as central to that commitment.
I’m here today, representing my community because I believe that a swift transition to renewable energy is a matter of life and death. The evidence that our climate is changing in response to human carbon emissions is clear. Every tenth of a degree matters. Renewable energy is one of many strategies we need to employ to ensure a livable planet now–and in the future–and we need legislation that removes political and financial roadblocks.
I will spare you the long list of climate impacts that come by me in my line of work. Let me simply say that I’ve seen Midwestern farmers struggling because rain comes in downpours instead of trickles; I’ve listened as my intern from California describes what forest fires do to the air quality in her state, and I’ve spoken with an Ethiopian pastor who said to me, “The rains are coming later and later. If the rains don’t come, we die. Does anybody care?”
Christian faith teaches us that all of these people are our neighbors. Minimizing the use of fossil fuels is one way that we—and many other people of faith–live out our calling to love our neighbors as ourselves. Here are a few ways my denomination has worked at it:
- Our seminary, our colleges, our denominational headquarters, our development agency, our thrift stores have all invested in renewable energy.
- Everence, our financial institution, names addressing climate change as a priority in its shareholder advocacy.
- Congregations in our network are using the money their solar panels save them to support local non-profits or plant trees in deforested nations. In my town of Goshen, the majority of MCUSA churches have solar panels.
- Some of our churches are benefiting from a series of retreats where pastors can wrestle with climate change and the denial and despair that it raises. I’ve been to three of these retreats, and I’ve always come out feeling better than I went in. It is so freeing to talk together, admit our fears and help each other find responses. I wish all of the leaders of our country and all of our frightened young people could have that experience.
Two millennia ago, Jesus of Nazareth was hiking across Palestine spreading healing and hope at a time when his people were experiencing despair. The Gospel of Mark sums up what he said: “The time is now. Lives of well-being and peace–with each other and with creation–are within your reach. Turn your lives around and believe the good news.”
Was he speaking only to people long dead? I don’t think so. Those words have come rattling down through the centuries to land on us here and now in the middle of climate change, and they are still calling us to decision.
The time is now. It is a time for vision and moral courage and sacrifice. It is a time to focus our lives on what matters most; to cherish the beauty of the earth and to build friendships across dividing lines. When it comes to climate change, we are all in the same mess and all on the same team. There are no emissions free gas pumps for Democrats or hurricane exemptions for Republicans. There is still a way forward if we choose to take it, and renewable energy is a part of that.
For those of us who pray, it is also a time for prayer. This is a paper chain from our family Christmas tree. Like a rosary, it is a form of intercession and a physical aid to prayer. And on each link of this chain is the name of a state or national leader.
I like to light a candle and—despite evidence to the contrary—I imagine our leaders linked; working together shoulder to shoulder, committed to the common good, helping to pull our planet to safety. May it be so.
Jennifer Schrock is the Communication Manager for Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center, Goshen College and Leader of Mennonite Creation Care Network. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Related content: WTIU/WFIU: Faith Groups Fight Climate Change
A house party for a house on fire
by Anne Hedin
Climate Strike doesn’t summon up images of a joyful occasion, but last Friday’s action in City Hall was – mostly. By design, it opened with a festival to raise energy. Eliza Dowd, Sunrise Movement organizer and emcee for the day, said, “This is what it’s like when we all get together to take action. This is what we want to bring to the world.” It makes climate action a work party, like when someone gets friends together to help paint the house.
About 250 people of all ages listened to music, snacked, talked to each other, and shared their visions of the future that they want to see and what they will do for it. Three homeschooled children staffed a booth with an interactive exercise on recycling. Rows of info booths and activity stations; people taking pictures of themselves and the speakers. A row of video cameras, lots of media types doing interviews – all the trappings of a big event.
Some students had travelled from across the state and outside the state to be with like-minded youth, and were excited to share in the demand for the city to declare climate emergency. Many people carried copies of the proposed Declaration of Climate Emergency for Bloomington. Speakers included representatives of the sponsoring organizations (Fridays for Future, Golden Bicycle, Extinction Rebellion, and YDSA), plus various interest and campus groups, IU climate scientist Ben Brabson, and two high schoolers from Bloomington High South.
The noisy room suddenly fell silent as BHSS freshman Charlotte Siena said, “I worry that I won’t make it to my parents’ age, or my grandparents’. I worry about my quality of life if I do make it that far…. I dream of a world where no children worry, especially not about something that their representatives could fix.” She concluded by directly addressing Mayor Hamilton (who was traveling that day): “You may think that you can ignore us and cajole us until we go away. I’ll tell you right now: You can’t. Because when it comes to my future, I am willing to do just about anything to secure it.”
Just before Charlotte spoke, I had a chance to interview Council Member Dave Rollo. He said, “I received the Declaration and the resolved action items, and I’ve been speaking to the climate scientist Ben Brabson on the possibility of implementing this on the basis of his experience. There are things we can act on immediately and there are things that are going to require a lot of work; this crisis has been decades in the making. So I am digesting it. I absolutely agree with the premise that we have a climate emergency.”
The era of hard choices has begun
by Anne Hedin
In the last month, student and community groups met to integrate and coordinate their climate initiatives. At the same time, divisive debates over the UDO raged in the core neighborhoods. The era of hard choices is upon us. More than 11,000 scientists just officially declared a global climate emergency. What’s decided about the UDO now is most consequential within that context.
About 40 people gathered in Harmony School on October 21 for a Climate Organizing Plug-in meeting to introduce themselves and their groups. Represented groups included: Bloomington Catholic Worker, Citizens Climate Lobby, Center for Sustainable Living, Earth Care, El Centro Communal, Fridays for Future, Neighborhood Planting Project, NOW, SIREN, Students for a New Green World, Sunrise Movement, Sustainable Food Initiative, Time to Choose Coalition, Xtinction Rebellion Bloomington (XR Bloomington). Apologies if the list is incomplete. Future issues of the newsletter will focus on introducing the less familiar groups; this issue focuses on the newly formed XR Bloomington group.
Bradi Heaberlin of Bloomington Cooperative Living facilitated the meeting by having people break into small groups to discuss the following questions: What are the next steps for climate action in Bloomington? What will it take in terms of resources and infrastructure to accomplish them? How do we make a plan that resonates and connects with groups around the world to bring about positive change? What can you contribute?
Needless to say, the answers were diverse, and it will take work to sort out the ideas that plausibly offer the greatest return on communal effort and to weed out needless duplication of effort. (Numerous participants recommended reading the existing Sustainability Action Plan.) Nonetheless it was an exciting start which the attendees seemed committed to building on.
In contrast to this bottom-up process in its initial stages, the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) is a top-down process in its final stages. The UDO is a highly formalized plan presented ready-made to city residents, some of whom had contributed at earlier stages but many of whom seemed surprised to learn of its contents. The discussion forum in my Bryan Park neighborhood focused on the most controversial part of the plan, the issue of rezoning single-family areas to allow for the construction of duplexes and triplexes on corner lots.
(In an earlier stage of the political process, quadplexes were also included, but that has been taken off the table. Likewise, earlier versions of the code proposed allowing multi-unit construction “by right” but this was later revised to “conditional use” permitting based on community and zoning board review of developers’ plans.)
Both proponents and opponents appeal in part to potential climate impacts of the proposed rezoning. For example, would increasing neighborhood density reduce sprawl and decrease the alarming and disproportionate rise in per capita greenhouse emissions from transportation identified by the city’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory? Would tearing down existing buildings and building new ones cost more in increased emissions than it reduces from transportation and other impacts?
Reasonable people can and do disagree on these and other aspects of the problem and proposed solutions. But both sides of the debate gained emotional intensity from fear of change, a fear we all have now looking at an increasingly uncertain future. The fear of declining property values and quality of life pervades the UDO debate. This is not irrelevant and I am not immune. But runaway climate change will degrade a neighborhood worse than developers held to the current proposed UDO standards, in my opinion.
Whatever City Council decides about the UDO on November 13, we will have to live with it. It is the first of many policy changes that Council and residents will have to address. What I would like to see happen in my neighborhood and throughout the city is for residents to start having the kind of conversations that occurred at the Plug-in meeting. We are all in this together. Let’s start behaving that way.
Anne Hedin is the newsletter editor and website manager for the Time to Choose Coalition.
Three strikes and all in!
by Anne Hedin, 10/16/2019
I have been to three Global/local Climate Strikes in the last month and I am ready for more. I had rather expected them to be like the anti-war and civil rights marches and rallies I attended back in the day, completely oppositional, but they weren’t. Instead, people get it that we are all in this together, the marchers as well as the recipients of demands and targets of protest. I would describe the tone as “in your face on your behalf.”
Strike 1 was the big one here on September 20; it drew probably 300-400 people. Dozens of groups sponsored it; the main organizers were the Sunrise Movement on the IU side and Extinction Rebellion Southern Indiana on the community side. The young speakers – the high school and college students as well as the seventh grader who read the strike demands to the mayor at City Hall – were very impressive. Older speakers – a college professor, an incoming City Council member, other environmental leaders – spoke from greater experience with no less passion. Keep coming back, they said, keep making demands until we mobilize the political will among elected leaders to take significant and timely action to lower greenhouse gas emissions. The mayor welcomed the delegation and their demands to City Hall; the marchers kept up the chant, “Not enough” to demand more action sooner.
Strike 2 occurred a week later on the IU campus, fulfilling the commitment made by IU student leaders to march every Friday. It drew about 30-40 people. My grandson and I were the only marchers who were not students, as far as I could tell, and it was my grandson’s first strike. He carried a sign that he and his mother had made. I was very proud of him. He got tired before the hour’s march was over but he kept on because it was important.
Please consider sharing an upcoming march with your own children and grandchildren. It will bring you closer and allow you to address their fears. Children are hearing climate concerns and predictions just as they hear about sex from playground talk and overheard snatches of adult conversations. Jonas had heard that climate change is “burning a hole in the atmosphere.” He concluded that all the air was going to rush out into space leaving none to breathe. Children are literal-minded as they work at figuring out the world. By marching with them, you can show them that other people care and are taking steps to solve the problem. It also puts ordinary experiences in a new context. The day before we marched past Dunn Meadow, chanting “Hey, it’s hot in here; too much carbon in the atmosphere,” Jonas had been there dancing to the music of Lotus in the Park. And it was mighty hot both days.
Strike 3 on my itinerary: Daley Plaza, Chicago, October 7, for a strike that drew 200-300 people and a handful of TV crews. It was organized by Extinction Rebellion Chicago, coordinating speakers from 350.org, Sierra Club, the Climate Reality Project, local citizens, representatives of Christian, Jewish and Buddhist faith groups, and others. Rumors had circulated in advance that Greta Thunberg would appear, but this proved to be wishful thinking. Speakers demanded that Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot declare a climate emergency and Illinois’ Governor Pritzker pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act. Simultaneously a group of young people staged a “die-in” in front of Trump Tower, lying on the ground for 11 minutes to represent the 11 years the UN warns that we have left for averting catastrophic consequences. Then they marched back to Daley Plaza, blocking traffic.
Extinction Rebellion has a flair for street theater aimed at breaking the appearance that business as usual is ok and that there is “nothing to see here.” Some XR Chicago organizers wore jungle print shirts and black masks (jaguar, fish, bird); others wore black t-shirts with the slogan “Tell the Truth.” Throughout the action on Daley Plaza a helicopter hovered overhead. I could not tell whether it was surveilling the rush hour traffic or the Strike, but the noise of the rotors almost drowned out soft-spoken speakers and the vibrations it set off rose up from the stone plaza and tickled the soles of our feet.
The Strike is not over. Yesterday five young people carried the Climate Action Now banner into City Hall Council Chambers where City of Bloomington staff delivered the 2019 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report. The City is listening; they need this input to make the case for state and federal funding and to build consensus among residents about how to spend it. There will be other actions. If you want to get involved, come to a meeting that the local Golden Bicycle XR group is holding to carry on the momentum from September 20 and to continue building a local coalition. Monday, Oct 21 at 7:00pm. Harmony School Gymnasium, 909 E. 2nd St., B’ton.
More from the media:
Bloomington narrative: https://www.idsnews.com/multimedia/b54e1d5b-7e42-474c-b5af-a4f2e1c87cc4
Chicago mainstream coverage: https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2019/10/07/hundreds-of-climate-protesters-to-take-over-downtown-chicago/
Extinction Rebellion coverage: https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=Extinction%20Rebellion%20Chicago&epa=SEARCH_BOX
Our Common Home
by Laura Lasuertmer,
“We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well – for we will not fight to save what we do not love.” – Stephen Jay Gould
I remember the moment that I first felt the reality of climate change. It was April 2015. My second child was two months old. I had just finished reading “Rotten Ice” by Gretel Ehrlich in Harper’s Magazine. This tangle of fear, helplessness, and worry concentrated itself in my heart, and in between night feedings I dreamed of melting poles. This was not the origin point of Common Home Farm but it marked a shift in my response to the climate crisis.
I was a live-in member of the Bloomington Catholic Worker when I read Ehrlich’s article. I was transformed by communal life, by Catholic Worker life, and all the ways that sharing and caring for one another created abundance. In this context, climate change provoked my husband and I to dream of a community on the land, a place where we could fall in love with our earth and participate in its healing.
Common Home Farm is that dream made manifest. We are a new community of six adults and seven children starting a communal farm on 10 acres of land in northern Monroe County. Our mission is to create a thriving intentional community that grows nourishing food and offers respite retreats to people experiencing homelessness. By creating a place of radical cooperation, we will model concrete ways to replace the isolating and consumptive habits of capitalist culture. We also challenge the construct of private property and instead position ourselves to be stewards of this land for future generations. By living more closely with the natural world, and offering that gift to all who work and retreat with us, we hope to foster greater awareness of our interconnectedness with all of creation. For love is an essential element in changing our relationship with the earth.
Our first project is to make livable space and reclaim the land from overgrowth and invasive species. We are currently converting a two-story building into a family dwelling and community space. The property also has a small cabin that will be ready to occupy starting in August. In the next 2-3 years, we plan to build two more community houses, develop perennial gardens and an orchard, construct a high tunnel for annual vegetables, and begin hosting visitors, guests and interns. The joy of this big project is in gaining new skills and working together on the land. In the work of transforming culture and climate we are brought together in the beloved community. We welcome volunteer labor for work days, financial contributions, as well as speaking invitations, coffee dates, and visits. We hope to connect with you soon.
For more information:
- Go to our website: www.commonhomefarm.org
- A detailed power-point presentation is here.
- Contact: Laura Lasuertmer (812) 679-7633; firstname.lastname@example.org
-  Common Home Farm is: Amy Countryman and Jeff Mansfield (kids: Henry, Wendell, Auri, Robin); Luke Kwiatkowski; David Watters (Huck); Laura and David Lasuertmer (Alice and Leo). David and Huck and the Lasuertmer family will be live-in members of the community starting in August while Luke, Amy and Jeff will continue to live in town.
by Anne Hedin
One of the joys of kayaking on Lake Monroe in the spring is paddling between trees growing on the flood plains back behind the usual shoreline. Saplings and mature trees stand up out of water many feet deep, with sunlight streaming through their lacy new leaves. The place feels enchanted.
My pleasure this year is dampened, so to speak, by realizing how far beyond the usual flood stage the waters have risen. This year the lake reached a max of 14’ above normal pool level and has been over 10’ above pool since mid-March at least. One day, April 27, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers posted a comment, “Due to heavy rains the lake came up 8 inches since yesterday morning.” As of today, the level is dropping 2 inches a day through controlled release of 16,000 gallons a second, Tyler Blankenship of the park service told me.
As you probably know, the Louisville District of the Corps designed, built and operates the lake and the dam which forms its southern end in the early 1960s as a flood control measure. “When heavy rains occur, surface water runoff is stored in the lake until swollen streams and rivers below the dam have receded and can handle the release of the stored water without damage to lives and property,” according to the official history. “Since its completion, Monroe Lake has prevented more than $38 million in flood damage, or more than twice its original cost of $16.5 million.”
All across Indiana this spring flood waters are unusually high, freaking out local government officials. To help them plan for a future of more of the same, IU’s Environmental Resilience Institute put on a webinar last week titled “Achieving Flood Resilience in Indiana Rural Communities in the Face of a Changing Climate.”
It attracted 90 registrants, a record for the “Prepared for Change” series, according to Janet McCabe, the moderator and ERI’s Policy and Implementation Director. You can watch it here. If you do, you will have a jump on this state’s infrastructure funding debates for the coming decade.
The essence of the problem is this:
The last round of major infrastructure construction was completed before the 1990s, when regional precipitation was low and did not vary much from decade to decade (see chart on the left). Precipitation levels have become about 30% higher since then. Rainfall amounts will continue to increase, according to the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. The existing infrastructure wasn’t designed for this and in many places can’t cope with it.
The case study presented in the webinar focused on Tipton, a town of 5,000 in north central Indiana. Like many other small Hoosier communities, Tipton was built originally on the banks of a creek, but now the creek overflows when there is heavy rain, swollen by upstream waters. Their watershed has no storage area like ours. During recent flooding, the Tipton hospital, high school and other critical buildings rose out of standing water like trees on the floodplains of Lake Monroe.
Tipton can’t solve this problem alone. It doesn’t have the resources and the problem involves land use practices in communities beyond its borders. And its dilemma typifies what many rural communities throughout the state are facing. The webinar presenters – Robert Barr, Research Scientist, Center for Earth and Environmental Science, IUPUI and Siavash Beik, Vice President and Principal Engineer, Christopher B. Burke Engineering, LLC – explain with admirable clarity what planning for resiliency means in this situation. Access the presentation here.
Talk About It
by Anne Hedin
In the last month we were fortunate to hear and interact with the prominent climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe and film maker James Balog.
Though Dr. Hayhoe covered the science from her perspective as Director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech, her central message was that the most important thing you can do to fight climate change is talk about it. This is also the title of her TED Talk. James Balog, who identifies as a story teller rather than a scientist, said, “Climate protection is people protection. This is not a story that we tell often enough, clearly enough.”
The mission of this newsletter is to give you something to talk about with friends, family and neighbors. That’s why there is a tight focus on the local community. People are willing to do something when they see the connection to their own lives and the people and places they care about.
Because it’s Earth Day, this issue contains three Good Reasons for Hope to talk about, rather than the usual one. Two involve high school students setting an agenda for what needs to be done. The third covers a new venture by two of Bloomington’s most innovative sustainability champions, Ryan Conway and Andrea Avena Koenigsberger, pictured on our Earth Day cover.
Big thanks to Michael Hamburger of the Concerned Scientists at IU, who is becoming the local impresario of climate change events. He arranged for the visits of both our distinguished visitors as well as various classroom visits, meet-and-greets and the event recordings.
Michael says, “In case you missed James Balog’s amazing presentation of The Human Element at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater this week, you can now catch it online. Check out this high-quality online video (courtesy of the good folks at Bloomington CATS). We also have a Facebook livestream of Mr. Balog presenting his film Chasing Ice at the IU Media School, introduced by Jon Vickers, Director of the IU Cinema, and a separate livestream of the Q&A with Jon Vickers, following the film.”
by Anne Hedin
I wonder if any Bloomington kids are going to skip school on March 15 to take part in the US Youth Climate Strike. The “school strike” movement has mobilized tens of thousands of students in Europe and Australia but it has yet to spark rallies in the US or much coverage in the press.
The movement started with one girl in Sweden skipping school on Fridays last fall to sit in front of the Parliament building. Her aim was to prod politicians into taking action on climate change. Her name is Greta Thunberg. Watch her address the COP 24 climate delegates in Katowice this past December.
Greta was 15 years old when she started sitting outside the Parliament. She looks like a much younger child. Her growth was stunted when, at age 11 in despair over the future, she fell into a depression so severe that she stopped speaking and almost stopped eating.
Greta’s “school strike” inspired a 13 year old New York girl, Alexandria Villasenor, to sit out in front of the United Nations building on Fridays this January and February. (Remember what it was like during the polar vortex?) Alexandria called for and started organizing the US Climate Strike to coincide with the March 15 Global Climate Strike for Future being organized by tag teams of student organizers around the world. In some places, teachers are going out with the students. Some organizers are asking parents to take their kids out of school and accompany them to the marches.
As of March 1, Greta’s Twitter account stated that climate strike events are scheduled in ”524 places in 59 countries and counting…”
Will Bloomington be one of those places? I see no sign of that happening here, but The Action Network is organizing an event outside the State House in Indianapolis. That is a better place for it anyway. Governor Holcomb and the General Assembly need to take notice in ways they have so far mostly avoided. We are more fortunate in Bloomington. Mayor Hamilton has made sustainability a priority, as a number of news items in this issue show. Announced candidates for city offices have green planks in their platforms.
Young people in Bloomington have agency. They are advancing their own initiatives; adults in positions to help are providing leadership training. As we reported last May, students from all three high schools drafted a Climate Resolution. The Bloomington Council on Sustainability (BCOS) has been helping them prepare it for an upcoming City Council vote. We’ll have more on that in a future issue. IU’s Integrated Program on the Environment invited students from 7 Indiana high schools to an environmental problem-solving workshop. You can read about it here.
But let’s not get complacent. Clearly we are in a desperate case when teenagers like Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Villasenor feel they have to take such measures to break the collective trance of the adults who are sworn to protect them. Will they succeed? We will see. Opponents will probably ridicule the Youth Climate Strikes as they have the Green New Deal. But young people are voting with their feet.
When I saw the video of Greta in Katowice, I suddenly remembered Joan of Arc, my childhood heroine. At age 17, Joan of Arc convinced Charles, the demoralized, uncrowned heir to the throne of France, to give her command of an army. This was late in the Hundred Years War between England and France. England was prevailing and France had not won a major victory against the occupying English force and their northern French allies in a generation.
In desperation, out of other options, the prince accepted. His war leaders were won over because Joan was a good strategist and brave leader. Her belief in her mission inspired the troops. Over the next two years, they drove back the English and got Charles crowned. It is one of the unlikeliest turns of events in European history and nobody really understands how Joan did it. But I imagine that it was with the same fierce urgency and clarity as you see and hear in Greta Thunberg.
Building Emotional Resiliency
by Anne Hedin
A couple of times recently, good friends who pull more than their weight as climate advocates have confessed to me that they were suffering emotionally but suffering in silence. Because they owe it to others to model “being strong” about coping with climate change. Because, even in the privacy of a close relationship, it was too painful to share the feelings that sometimes engulfed them.
This reticence is one of the classic signs of trauma. The suffering that it cloaks is the subject of a wonderful new video from Yale called “Textbook Trauma: The Emotions of Climate Change.” In it, the filmmaker cuts back and forth between interviews he did with two climate scientists – Sarah Myhre and Jeffrey Kiehl.
With great compassion and dignity, Myhre and Kiehl both talk about the same thing: “sitting with the emotional body, trying to process” gut feelings of helplessness, fear, anger, shame for being a part of this mess, for not doing enough, etc.
[No, I’m not going to summarize what they say; I’d be cheating you of a valuable experience. Watch the video. It’s just 8 minutes long.]
In addition to being an administrator and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Kiehl is a Jungian psychologist. Myhre, a paleoceanographer, upset enough denialists and contrarians that she needed the services of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. In their different ways, both scientists have seen lots of people try to get their head wrapped around climate change and have seen all the standard human defenses pop up. They are mindful of these emotions when they talk to audiences, because the emotions will be in the room, expressed or not.
Myhre says, “You’ve got to get some sunlight on [those emotions]. One of the ways we do that as scientists is to say, ‘This is scary, and I’m scared too, and I share this with you, and I wish it were not so. … Once you’ve had an emotion that’s been articulated and vented, then you can kind of rest after that and think about the information and how you actually want to respond to that information.” At that point, you start thinking about solutions. You regain your perspective. You go on, building emotional resiliency while doing the part of the work that you have chosen.
We have all tried to figure out what stops people from changing their lifestyle, changing their minds, changing the way they vote. Myrhe and Kiehl remind us that their denial may be a private Wailing Wall. As we try to scale up solutions, we need to help people get past the trauma response.
A New Year’s Resolution
by Anne Hedin
The motto for this issue, “12 more years. Use them well.” is not a doomsday prophecy based on the IPCC report. It is my New Year’s resolution.
Twelve years is truly not much time for humanity to mobilize and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to safer levels. But as a species we are deadline-driven rather than fore-sighted, so don’t count us out yet. There are signs of progress included in this issue. I am reminded of the saying often heard in connection with New Year’s resolutions: “Everyone overestimates what they can do in one year and underestimates what they can do in 20 years.” We don’t have to reverse the global warming trend single-handedly but we do have to do our part. This newsletter exists to help people choose a part to play.
This issue is coming out on the second anniversary of our founding moment as the Time to Choose Coalition. In the words of our convener Madi Hirschland, “Two years ago, we organized an event that brought over 500 people to the Buskirk-Chumley to raise awareness and spur action on climate change. At that time, we decided to continue as a coalition, with the goal of supporting and increasing the visibility of our members’ climate efforts without creating extra work” for them.
Now with the turn of the year, Madi has chosen a new part to play. She is trying to build a bridge between the Jewish and Evangelical Christian faith communities in Indiana, and is now putting aside almost everything else to focus on it. I am deeply grateful for what she has done for us and wish her all the best on her chosen task.
Madi is a brilliant organizer, and the things she set in motion are still going strong. I had to smile when I saw the event that ICEY and Earth Care promote in this issue – an MLK Day service project to feed the community and educate teens on the impact of their lifestyle choices. I hear so many echoes from our founding moment when Madi boldly insisted that yes, we could feed 500 people in the theater and get them to discuss the lifestyle changes they intended to make – over a bowl of earth-friendly soup.
by Madi Hirschland
12/11/2018 – Graduates and would-be mentors of ICEY – the interfaith environmental youth group – seek your help in identifying the next generation of Bloomington youth environmental activists and leaders. Because ICEY’s activities made a real impact, it was tremendously empowering for its teen participants, who developed terrific leadership skills. If you know teens – especially seventh- through tenth-graders – who are concerned about climate change and might want to participate, please send their contact info to Katherine Tilghman at email@example.com. ICEY led everything from a Bloomington’s People’s Climate Gathering to large MLK Day weatherizing events to a youth climate advoclimate advocacy training in D.C. to organizing and fundraising for a statewide training for youth groups. ICEY grads describe is not only really fun but really important to their development.
10/25/2018 – TIME TO STEP IT UP
Join us again for a movie, conversation and community – and bring a friend
The news on climate change can be overwhelming – but there’s hope in hearing what we already are doing and what we can do together. It’s time to step it up. Let’s acknowledge what’s happening. Let’s talk together again – like we did at the event at the Buskirk-Chumley after the 2016 election. And let’s expand our ranks – bring a friend.
And bring a teen who brings a friend. After the movie, which features Leonardo DiCaprio, a brief meetup of youth will be facilitated in a separate room by graduates of ICEY, local youth who care about the future of the world and protecting it through action, advocacy, and education. If you know youth who want to make a difference, invite them to come alone or with a friend. Pizza will be had!
What: Leonardo DiCaprio in “Before the Flood” followed by:
- pizza and action-oriented meeting for teens
- food and results-oriented conversation for adults
Where: Monroe County Public Library auditorium
When: November 10th, 3 PM sharp to 5 PM
Who: Adults and teens
Why: Because we need to know, we need to act and we need to expand our ranks. There’s so much that we can do together – and we first need to recognize we’ve got a problem.
9/25/2018 – Environmentalists don’t vote – sobering news given how much our votes matter.
In the 2016 presidential election, two in three registered voters voted. But among registered voters who are environmentalists, the number was much lower – just one in two. In fact, roughly 12 million registered voters who identify the environment as one of their top priorities did not vote. If we can get our colleagues to vote, we can make a real difference.
Climate change has been described as the missing issue in the 2016 midterm elections. Maybe that’s no surprise – if the people who care about it aren’t voting, politicians have little incentive to do something. According to the website Think Progress, “If they voted more consistently, it could change U.S. politics, as candidates from both parties would need to work to win their vote.”
8/24/2018 – What are the two most urgent and vital actions we can take right now on behalf of the Earth?
1) Set aside one afternoon each weekend between now and Election Day – just 11 weeks away! – to get out the vote. Lots of groups are working on this, for example, Hoosier Action’s Project Midterm, Swing Left, and individual campaigns for the House and Senate.
2) Call Senator Joe Donnelly – at (317) 226-5555 or (202) 224-4814 and urge him to:
- a) oppose Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and
- b) refuse to vote until the Senate has been provided Kavauaugh’s records from when he worked in the Bush White House (as Elena Kagan’s were).
We *can* make a difference! Above all, we need our elected representatives to acknowledge and act to avert the environmental crises we face.
6/14/2018 – Want to show your concern about climate change?
Want to speak to others in our legislative district and ask them to vote for candidates who care too? Please join us: a) in the Fourth of July Parade and / or b) going door-to-door in other parts of the ninth legislative district. Interested? Contact Madi Hirschland at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
5/12/2018 – Five Excellent Reasons to Join Us for the July 4th Parade:
- Can you think of any better way to reach large numbers of people who are “beyond the green choir”?
- Walking together under such vibrant banners gives a green message that is downright joyful.
- Large numbers convey that this really matters.
- Hearing people cheer for us feels terrific.
- It’s a truly fun way to celebrate the 4th with friends, family, and/or the Time to Choose community.
All this depends on there being lots of us. If you’d like to join us ––please email Madi at email@example.com. And if you’d like to help brainstorm creative ways that our presence in the parade can make a wave, please email me soon!
3/9/18 – Resistance? In my gut, “resistance” feels essential – the opposite of being rolled over – and also gives me a sinking feeling – as in Newton’s Third Law, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” If we are locked in a battle of resistance, what of the urgent need for positive action?
Our climate action work in Indiana continues to provide a different, tremendously heartening vision of “resistance” – or, more precisely, “response”. Last year, we not only slowed down the timeline by which anti-solar bill SB 309 would make rooftop solar uneconomical, we also used its first 2018 solar disincentives as an incentive to quickly organize teams of volunteers across the state that facilitated an increase in the number of solar homes in the entire state by a remarkable 20%.
Here’s the new news – the kicker: despite that we are now in 2018, these teams are continuing full steam ahead – and the Solarize Indiana initiative is seeking to spread to new cities. In other words, the effect of SB 309 has been not the intended tamping down but, rather, a continuing ramping up of rooftop solar in Indiana. It can use your help. If you know of individuals in Anderson, Fort Wayne, Gary, Hammond, Jeffersonville, Lafayette, Kokomo, New Albany, Valparaiso who might like to help jumpstart this response in their home towns, please let Lana Eisenberg firstname.lastname@example.org know.
Meanwhile, who really believes that SB 309 will not be overturned before its 2022 deadline expected to completely halt growth in rooftop solar? Our response has just begun!
2/9/2018 – The perfect, the good and hats off to our leaders: Leaders of our statewide environmental groups go all out at this time of year, mightily working the halls of the statehouse to stop anti-environmental bills and build support for those that are good for the Earth. Their work takes tremendous skill and perseverance in what can be a terribly demoralizing environment – a lions’ den. In these efforts, they must ferret out what’s the best that they can get. Politics is “the art of the possible” in which “the perfect can be the enemy of the good.” Our job is to support them – to show up when they need us, write letters, make phone calls. For those of us in districts blessed with representatives who vote “for the Earth”, our job is to reach out to friends, family and colleagues in districts whose representatives are not. Getting a re-districting bill out of committee this year was a huge feat. Those fighting for it deserve our admiration and encouragement. The next step is to try to get it passed with an independent redistricting commission.
12/12/2017 – In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, house parties! We’re at it again. Inspired by Dr. King and “the fierce urgency of now” that climate change presents, the Time to Choose Coalition is again seeking to create community while increasing awareness and action. During Martin Luther King week – Jan. 14 to 21 – we’re organizing house parties. Although each party will be tailored to the interests of the host and participants, they’ll share some staples: good food(!), warm company, a short stimulating video, easy discussion and options for hopeful action. Would you or people you know be interested in attending a house party? Would you like to host one for your neighbors, friends, or colleagues? We’ll provide you with everything you need – including a presenter/facilitator if you so desire. In either case, email us at email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you.
11/14/2017 – MLK Day is coming again. This year, we have a rather different plan for bringing people together to learn, think and talk about climate change. Instead of inviting our friends, neighbors, colleagues or members of our congregations to join us at the Buskirk, we’ll invite them into our homes. House parties will provide a setting where small groups watch movie excerpts, react and interact, and hear about how we can make a difference. If this idea makes sense to you and you’d like to help out, please let Madi know at firstname.lastname@example.org
We need: people who want to host, people who want to invite people to a house party hosted by someone else, people who’d like to facilitate a house party discussion, and people who’d like to help with the content of the parties – for example, by think about videos that that will spur discussions.
Meanwhile, the ripples from last year’s MLK event continue to spread. On Oct. 29th, seventy-five members of Congregation Beth Shalom and Evangelical Community Church watched and discussed the movie Time to Choose at the church. And today, a group watched it at St. Mark’s United Methodist. If you’d like to organize a viewing for a group you belong to, please let us know. From handouts to a sample event schedule to discussion questions and editable fliers, we have everything you might need to host a successful event. Use the same address as above: email@example.com
10/14/2017 – Making lemonade: we have power! In May, our governor signed into law a bill that aimed to squelch rooftop solar in Indiana. Six months later, thanks to a grassroots response, interest in solar has caught fire across our state.
Inspired by Bloomington’s Solarize successes, a group of volunteers came together in May to help form and train teams of volunteers from cities across the state to make it easy and lower the cost for homeowners to install solar on their home. Thanks to these local teams and SIREN’s incredible efforts in Bloomington, in the past nine weeks, some one thousand four hundred Hoosiers in have attended solar information sessions held in libraries, homes, churches and city halls from Jeffersonville to South Bend.
Over 400 of these homeowners have moved forward by requesting a proposal for solar on their roofs.
This remarkable grassroots response to Senate Bill 309 has attracted the attention of national media. HBO’s VICE Nightly News sent a team of four to the tiny town of Oldenburg where 88-year-old Sister Claire Whalen has led a highly successful Solarize Initiative. In thanking the volunteers who contributed to this success, Sr. Claire wrote, “I know Mother Earth is breathing a sigh of relief and saying—’It’s about time!’ ”
As with Sister Claire in Oldenburg, so with all of the Solarize teams: it takes just one or two motivated individuals to make a real difference. Ask any of the groups that make up the Time to Choose Coalition. They know, your involvement matters! If you’re not already involved, please consider contacting one of the many Time to Choose groups that are doing important work here and beyond.
7/11/2017 – We were a sight to behold – and more than that, our Time to Choose contingent in the July 4th parade did something important. Research has found that a key factor in determining whether people take climate action is whether they hear others talking about it. After all, if we’re not talking about it, how could this be a big deal? At the same time, while a large portion of Americans recognize the damage that is taking place, they find the words “climate change” to be political and provocative.
On July 4th, with children and older folk – carrying huge breathtakingly lovely banners, following the “Time to Choose” banner in bold black and white, and handing out fun spinnable Time to Choose clocks – we bore witness to this crisis and how much it matters. We “talked” about the crisis we’re facing in an upbeat and engaging way to thousands of people, many of whom doubtless would find an actual conversation about climate change to be divisive and difficult.
It was truly heartwarming to hear people clapping for us as we approached. It was a sign that lots of people already do care.
Thanks so much to Molly O’Donnell to envisioning this opportunity and bringing it into being and to Anne Hedin and Molly for our fantastic banner.
6/11/2017 – What better way to speak to the whole community than the Fourth of July parade? Time to Choose members will be marching together and getting messages out to those who are watching us. Wouldn’t it be powerful if we had a large group? And a message that spoke to Hoosiers who don’t already care about this issue yet?
Please let Molly (firstname.lastname@example.org) know if you’ll join us. And please let Madi (email@example.com) know if you’d like to help us decide on how to word our message and what to hand out that will reinforce our common bond with the observers.
5/10/2017 – Let’s get together! Feeling discouraged about setbacks? Not sure what to do next? It is a challenge – but we have great power. Let’s figure this out in hopeful community.
If you’d like to talk through these issues with others, contact Madi at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll schedule a place and time for a community potluck and an open discussion of what we’re thinking and what each of us might do.
For me, the passage of SB 309 and other legislation nationally brings home that we must find ways to get beyond our usual circles. Here’s a website with lots of simple research-based tips on how to talk about climate change. Maybe we can think together about how we can open conversations with people who may or may not share our concerns. We look forward to hearing from you.
“Let’s get together and feel all right…”
4/8/2017 – Showering the Governor with VETO Cards. Actions on the federal level notwithstanding, we have power – and we need to wield it now.
Yes, Senate Bill 309 did pass the legislature but that’s not the whole story. In excellent news,
• legislators from across the state received more constituent phone calls about Senate Bill 309 than on any other bill the entire legislative session.
• though still lousy – in Nevada, when a similar bill went into effect, the demand for residential solar arrays dropped by 92% – SB 309 was greatly improved because people like us spoke up.
• the intense collaboration between the groups opposing the bill and their skill and unflagging efforts were truly inspiring and effective: a remarkable number of senators voted against the bill.
We now have an important job. Over the coming two weeks until the General Assembly session ends on April 21, people like us across the state are sending the Governor homemade VETO SB 309 cards – and, they will ask their communities, book groups, congregations, neighbors, and workmates to do the same. For details, please see and use this flier. If we all do this, Governor Holcomb will receive thousands of VETO cards letting him know where Hoosiers stand on clean energy.
In this divided time, the way that we will move our legislators to climate action is to reach out to people we know who are not already aware and active. If you have friends or colleagues who live outside of Bloomington, please reach out to them.
Our task together is to help others see the need for urgent action – and the power that we can wield together. If we can shift course here in Indiana, it can be done anywhere. We now have several copies of the movie Time to Choose. If you’ve not yet shown it to a group that you’re in, now is the time. For more information, email Madi at email@example.com.
3/10/2017 – Let’s help kindle a statewide movement. On April 29th, at 11 am, Hoosiers from across the state will come together in Indy to call for climate action. Will you stand up and be counted? Can you invite friends – especially from other parts of the state – to join you? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
In wonderful news, several more participants in our Jan. 15th event are planning showings of Time to Choose – including St. Mark’s United Methodist – and several more have decided to go solar. Or both: hats off to Margaret Sears, who just emailed us:
“I attended the Time to Choose program at the Buskirk in January and was very inspired! Since then we have signed a letter of intent with Solarize Bloomington and I showed the trailer to a group of high school students. I teach in Mitchell and we have an Amnesty International chapter here. A number of my Amnesty kids showed an interest in having a screening of the film here. They definitely see the connection between climate change and human rights! Would it be possible to obtain a copy?”
What you do will inspire others. Please keep us posted.
2/8/2017 – Let’s turn these ripples into waves! The first request for copies of Time to Choose arrived by the time we got home from the Buskirk. People who participated in our Jan. 15th gathering are on the move: a science teacher at BHSS has shown Time to Choose to one of her classes, another household has announced it’s going solar, Margaret Gohn is getting a group started in Owen County.
Next Thursday, 50 Christian, Jewish and Muslim women will watch excerpts of the film and discuss what they can do. Four more congregations have scheduled or are considering doing the same.
Friends, let’s widen the circle of Hoosiers who care and speak up for the Earth. Let’s reach out to people outside our comfort zone. If you know people in Owen County, put them in touch with Margaret Gohn; look up the Owen Valley Alliance on Facebook and ask to join. If you know people in other counties, tell them about us.
What will you do? Do you want a sounding board for your ideas? A chance to discuss how to organize a showing and discussion of the movie that will lead to action? How can we support you? Please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
“If not now, tell me when…”
1/20/2017 – Thank you! The coalition of groups that organized Sunday’s MLK event at the Buskirk wants to thank you so much for being with us – we’re holding that experience of hopeful community close. Over 500 people attended, over 50 stayed to talk with the presenters. Here are some pictures:
Mayor John Hamilton (second from left) joins Malcolm Dalglish, Robert Meitus and Carrie Newcomer in song.
Keynote speaker Stanley Njuguna draws parallels between the civil rights and the climate justice movements.
Enthusiastic members of the audience talked with each other and lined up to get information from coalition members.
Many of us are on the move to arrange showings of Time to Choose – in informal groups, a congregation, a high school. (The first request arrived by the time we got home Sunday night – so heartening!) As you consider doing this too, here’s some helpful information:
The full movie is 97 minutes long. Though we watched just 68 minutes together on Sunday we highly recommend the whole thing. You can rent it from Amazon for $5 (or stream it free with Prime). We’ll soon have copies that you can borrow. We’re happy to provide a discussion guide or help you think through follow-up questions for your particular group.
We can lend you a projector screen, a projector, and non-disposable mugs, silverware, and napkins in case you want to warm up your event with food. Let us know how we can help.